Marine Battery Tips

23 November 2017 Maintenance

Preparing the cottage boat batteries for winter storage is an important part of the cottage closing process.

How to charge and store a boat battery for the winter

A dead battery can quickly ruin the cottage-opening weekend.

It has happened to the best of us, and without a back-up ready to install, cottage owners can quickly find themselves in difficult situations. This is especially true for those of us who have water-access properties, where the boat is essential for getting to the cottage.

A dead marine battery means an unplanned trip to purchase a new one, or the total loss of the opening weekend, if the launch site for the property is remote.

In addition, the situation can be embarrassing if we haven’t checked to see if the motor will turn over before backing the trailer into the lake.

To ensure the boat battery will work in the spring, follow these steps when closing the cottage.

Clean the top of the battery
The top of the battery can get dirty over the course of the summer, so it’s important to clean it up before you put it away for the winter.

The one in the picture below is a flooded or wet-cell battery. This is the old-school lead-acid battery. It is the least expensive type of marine battery, but requires maintenance (periodic filling with distilled water).

Recharge the boat battery
Recharge the battery on the last day of the cottage closing weekend. This will ensure the marine battery is in the best possible condition when you set it aside for the winter.

The best charger to use is one that measures the charge level on the battery and lets you know when the charging process is complete. These “smart” chargers are reasonably priced and can mean the difference between ruining a good battery through overcharging, and prolonging the battery life.

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It is always best to remove the battery, store it for the winter, and then test it before heading to the lake in the spring, but some people simply leave the battery in the boat or at the cottage.

If the battery is fully charged and in good shape the day you leave, it should be fine when you return for the spring opening.

Special note: Always be careful to put the clamps or connectors on the proper terminals when charging the battery, and when installing the battery back in the boat.

Tape the positive connector
If you plan to put the battery in a storage shed for the winter, take the time to wrap the positive terminal with tape. In the event something metal falls on the battery during the winter, the two terminals will not be accidentally connected.

This might sound like overkill, but stranger things have happened.

One final reminder for boat owners who leave the boat at a storage site. If you don’t take the battery home, double check to make sure you disconnected the battery in the boat before leaving it for the winter.